My dearest readers! I want to profusely apologize for being unavailable to write for the past 8 months. The second half of spring semester has very hectic and this summer was even worse. Luckily it is looking like I am having a pretty decent fall semester, so we should be on the right track for more frequent updates. I promise more is coming (eventually at the most) as I am excited for the climax at the battle once we get there. To substitute for my lack of postings, here is my longest chapter by far.
To KilalaInara, thank you for your review. I thought it was a good description and I am happy to hear others liked it as well!
To L'Oubliee, thank you for your review as well. I am glad the joy I get from writing has been able to transfer into others enjoying reading my writing! Hopefully you like this chapter as well!
To all of you that recently favorited or followed since my last chapter, thank you for joining the story. For everyone that has stuck around, thank you for staying with me. Without further ado, here is chapter 19.
Turning, she curled into a ball in the back corner of her cell, her sobs muffled, but not completely obscured as the rest of the company listened in. The girl that had touched all their lives was once again broken. It was then that Bilbo made his appearance.
"Hello again all!"
Svelta didn't move, figuring if Bilbo could get the rest of them out then all the better for the company. They would make it to the mountain before Durin's Day and she wouldn't be a hinder any longer. Somewhere below her, she could hear Thorin conversing with the hobbit energetically.
It wasn't until Bilbo was standing directly outside of her cage that Svelta realized the two had been trying to get her attention.
"Svelta, there is a feast happening tomorrow night, do you know anything about it? Can you tell us if all the guards will be preoccupied or if there is a chance some will stay behind? I think I know a way to get you all out of here, but it would be better if there was no chance of interference."
"I don't know what day it is Bilbo, so I cannot tell you which feast they are having." Her voice was small and drawn out, with no inflection of emotion. She had withdrawn herself inwards and was offering up the bare minimum that she had to.
Bilbo didn't notice the change in her manner though, instead immersed in thought trying to calculate the day. "I don't know exactly. One of the guards that passed me mentioned something of stars."
"If what you heard was indeed related to the feast, then it is called the Feast of Starlight. It is the grandest feast, held halfway between midsummer's eve and the first day of autumn. It celebrates all that is good in the world and the light that is so dear to us. The stars are the connection of the older elves that have passed on to those still here alive. Everyone will be there to connect with the life force of the elves."
Bilbo nodded once, twice, then turned towards the stairway leading down, supposedly towards Thorin. "Then that solves it, we will leave here tomorrow night when everyone is gone at the feast."
"Good work Master Hobbit." Rang out the company leader's voice. Bilbo smiled, quite proud of himself. Footsteps were heard from above and Bilbo's face changed quite dramatically. "I will return in a day's time, be ready for me when I do."
And with that, he turned and began running down the stairs, away from the approaching footsteps. As Bilbo raced out of view, the owner of the footsteps came into view and was revealed to be none other than Legolas. Quickly, he made rounds to ensure all of the dwarves were still in their cells before returning and kneeling before Svelta's cell.
"Do you want to come sleep in my, or, our room?" He asked, quickly amending his statement as he realized he had gotten used to the fact that she was no longer a co-owner of the room.
Svelta looked up again from the back of her cage, eyes fixed on those of her brother's. "No."
"You wouldn't have to see Father at all. I would make sure of that." He tried to coax, but Svelta merely shook her head. Legolas sighed, head in a hand, before standing carefully. "I'll be here in the morning to check on you. I love you little sister."
Svelta didn't respond, instead closing her eyes, she listed to the resigned footsteps that led her brother away.
Azog stood, leering over her. Looking down at her own body, she realized she was now mostly that of an orc, the physical transformation nearly complete. Looking back up, she caught her reflection in a shield. Except it didn't look like her. Her reflection looked more like Bolg. Svelta screamed.
The darkness seemed to take her, but only momentarily as it cleared to show Goblin King close at hand, looming over her in the semi-lit room. One by one the Goblin King marched children past, mutilating and beheading each of them in turn before her. But soon the children turning into Bilbo, and then Ori, and then Bofur, who no longer had that little spark of joy in his eyes. When Fili and Kili came out next, chained and broken, Svelta screamed. But that didn't stop the Goblin King, who laughed at her instead. He kept torturing the two boys, no matter how much she screamed. Finally the darkness took her.
Only this time when it opened it was Thranduil sitting in his throne, smirking down at her while members of the company stood at his feet hurtling insults at her.
Over the calls of the dwarves, her elven father's voice reached her. "Who could love someone like you? Who could love something like you? What even are you?"
Svelta's eyes made contact with each of the members. Dwalin, Balin, Fili and Kili, Bofur, Bombur, Bifor. Even Dori, Ori, Nori, Gloin, and Oin, who she hadn't really made any connections with were there to tear her down. Thorin stood in the midst of it all, laughing at her. Thranduil soon joined in. Svelta sank down in the middle of the throne room, covering her ears and began to scream. No sound she made though could block out the calls of the people she thought had loved her. And her father's voice continued to echo in her mind. It was only when hands began to lay upon her, beating her, that the darkness came.
Svelta woke to find her face damp and herself breathing heavy, faced with Legolas holding her in his arms, the cage door open over his shoulder, and his face adorned with fear. Seeing that she was awake, he withdrew his hand slightly from her head where it had been resting, eyes never leaving her own. Swallowing harshly against her dry throat and trying to calm her breathing, she raised her eyebrows at her brother's look.
"You were screaming. In your sleep. Are you okay?" Legolas spoke slowly, trying to determine what exactly had caused the issue. Svelta merely nodded back at him, her dream flashing behind her eyes. When he didn't speak again, she sighed and said hoarsely, "I had a nightmare. All of the horrors of my past back to haunt me once more."
Legolas tried to pull her in closer, to hug her tight in an effort to comfort her, but Svelta was not the same half breed that left the palace. Feeling no urge to duck under her brother's chin and cry as she would have those years ago, she gently pushed him away and sat on the cell floor beside him instead. Her face was stoic, but no tears threatened to spill over at the slightest crack. She had learned to deal in a new way, and all of her tears had been shed the night before. Now she sat, staring at the wall, her brother staring at her, allowing the silence to fill the open cell.
Finally Legolas was able to compose himself enough that he cleared his throat and stood up. Offering a hand, he helped his sister up before saying in the voice of one addressing a rank below them, "You have a meeting with Father this evening. Please try and be calm when you go. I am warning you ahead of time so you can prepare and compose yourself." Svelta nodded at him, their eyes lingering until he looked away. "That will be all. Unless," his voice changed to pleading as he gazed back at her one last time.
"That will be all." Legolas nodded sadly and stepped out, closing the door behind him. Turning to lock it, hands snuck between the bars and wrapped over his. "Thank you brother. Sorry for disturbing you with my sleep."
Legolas smiled slightly, lifting a hand to cup her chin before turning and slowly walking up the stairs back to the throne room.
The day passed slowly, as Svelta sat in the back of the cell, ignoring the company as they tried to get her attention. No one was successful. Svelta drew into herself, the memories that had surfaced in her dreams replaying slowly over and over again. Every once in a while she would whimper, unable to tell between memory and reality, stuck in a stage in between the two. In an ever state of fear, she tried to survive the day until Legolas once again came for her.
Legolas came for his sister later that day, only to be stopped by the first dwarf he came to pass. The white haired dwarf begged him come close. Legolas stopped, curious what a dwarf would beg from him. "What is it?"
"Laddie, try and help her. We cannot from our positions. She has shut us out since we got here so maybe you can get through to her. All day she has been reliving her nightmares and we can't get through to her to wake her. She is in a stupor or something and frankly laddie, you might be the only one that she will listen to for reason. She has decided we hate her and won't acknowledge us. Do what you can, if anything get her out of her, take her back to the memories of her childhood before everything bad happened. Recreate happiness for her, because she won't let us no matter how much we try."
Legolas pressed his lips into a thin line, angered that she was shutting out her family when obviously they still cared for her. Nodding once, he lowered his voice in response, "We have a little time before we head back. Which dwarf is the one she cared for, his name was Kili."
The old dwarf visibly relaxed as he motioned to a couple cages after the poor girl. "He is one of the youngest ones and has dark hair." Legolas turned to leave when the wizened dwarf called, "Thank you laddie. From all of us. Anything to help her." Legolas nodded before moving on. He paused outside his sister's cell, watching her for a moment. She sat curled up in the back corner, occasionally twitching, mumbling something.
She fell silent. Her eyes roamed until they found him, only to stare at him a bit blankly before moving on until eventually settling back on the wall opposite her. The mumbling started again.
Nodding, Legolas hurried down, glancing in each cell he passed until he reached the dwarf matching the description the old one had given him. Stopping, he hissed at the dwarf, "Are you Kili?"
The dwarf one cell down came to the door and asked angrily, "Who wants to know?"
Legolas tried not to get angered as he replied, "I wish to bring the dwarf Kili to my sister's cell to try and help her."
The dwarf was silent for a moment, shock evident on his features, before nodding at the cell before Legolas, "My brother is in there. If what you say is true, please allow him to go to her."
Legolas nodded, turning back to the cell before him. The dwarf was now watching him warily. "I speak the truth, I only want to help my sister. I was told by one of your elders that Kili could help her." The dwarf nodded and came forward.
"I am Kili."
Legolas nodded, unlocking the door and grabbing his arm. When the dwarf tried to shrug him off, Legolas muttered, "it is just for show, in the chance other guards come." And the dwarf complied more easily.
They got back up to Svelta's cell, and Legolas let the dwarf in, locking it behind him. "I will return in a short while, you don't have much time, but I will give as much as I can spare."
"Thank you." The dwarf said, before turning away. Legolas could only sigh and retrace his steps out of the dungeons.
Svelta felt arms wrap around her, and immediately she stiffened. A voice whispered near her ear, "Come back to me. Stop fighting the orcs and goblins and come back to me." Slowly the arms felt less trying to strangler her and more trying to comfort her, until her mind realized she was not in the traps of her memory and instead inside a cell.
As she came to, she came to recognize the man holding her, Kili, not Legolas, but Kili, the dwarf she loved who surely didn't love her and even if he did could not possibly be in her cell because he was in his own cell. Immediately she began to struggle, confused who this new perpetrator was and what they wanted from her.
But the voice came again, shushing her before speaking soothingly, "It is me, don't stress. Your, your brother let me here to be with you." His voice only faltered once, but immediately Svelta knew, this was her Kili. But she was taken a back as he continued to whisper reassuring nothings into her ear. All that ran through her mind as her memories slung away was wonderment as he continued to hold her. Why had he not shrunk away in disgust? Svelta tried to pull away, again suspecting a trap.
Kili held his love at arm's length, attempting to look her in the eye. "Svelta I need to talk to you and I need you to listen. I am sure Fili and Dwalin also want to talk to you too, but right now I want you to listen, I need you to listen to what I have to say."
Kili paused, watching the girl, waiting. Finally, when her eyes met his, he continued.
"I love you. I want to make sure you know that. You mean more to me than almost anyone here. Maybe only Fili stands above you. But I love you. I don't care how much blood of yours is dwarven and how much isn't. It doesn't matter to me that you have elven blood and orc blood swimming in your veins. Nothing can sway me from loving you. Sure, we may all have been taken by surprise by the fact that you grew up in these halls and that you call that pointy eared chicken of a king father, but you are still Svelta. Your blood doesn't change who you are. Your past may haunt you, but it doesn't define who you are. Only you can do that, and I love you for you, not for the fact that you have dwarven blood."
There was a silence that echoed through the hallways. Kili's words resounded into each nearby cell, reverberating in each dwarf's mind. Each one held the girl in high regards. She was part of their company and they treasured her, in a similar way as to Kili's words, as they do each other.
The silence stretched on. Kili was content though as he wrapped his arms around Svelta, knowing that she had heard him and when she wanted to respond she would.
A shadow fell across the couple as Legolas stood in the doorway to the cell. His elven footsteps had rendered him unheard as he had made his way back down to the dungeons. Kili glanced up, meeting his gaze, knowing that his time was up. Nodding at the elf, he stood, helping the weary half breed up as he did. Leading her over to the door, Kili couldn't help but notice that she perked up a bit upon noticing her brother. He couldn't help but feel a little jealousy over this matter, but reeled it in knowing that she only felt for the elf as a sibling and not a potential lover.
Legolas opened the door and let the both of them out. Leaving his sister on the platform outside her cell, he escorted Kili back down to his cell. Upon entering, Kili turned and grabbed the bars of the door, leaning to catch the elf's attention before he retreated.
Legolas merely nodded.
"I don't know how much I helped, but I think I did a bit."
Again a nod.
"It was great just to see her. To be able to at least attempt to ease her pain, her guilt."
The elf just held his gaze until Kili sighed and hung his head, leaning his forehead against the cool bars.
"One day, she will understand there are people that would do anything for her, that love her and cherish her. Until then, all we can do is hope we are doing enough to help her make it out of the darkness that is buried inside her head."
A hand rested on his, and Kili glanced up to once again meet the elf's gaze.
"You did what you could for my sister. While it doesn't physically seemed to have helped, there are chances that what you did helped her mentality. We all must carry hope with us. I will take good care of her. And return her to you when the time comes. That is a promise."
Kili nodded and Legolas withdrew his hand. Kili watched him climb back up to the platform where Svelta stood waiting; watched him gently take her hands in his and speak in soft words to her in the elvish tongue; watched him turn and lead her up and away, without another backwards glance.
Svelta stood before the throne, Legolas at her side reassuringly. Her father tried to speak to her, asking questions, inquiring about her health and the treatment she received at the hands of the dwarves. She did not deign him worth a response and stood unanswering, her good eye focused somewhere over his shoulder instead. A heavy silence filled the air before Thranduil finally spoke again, his voice no longer gentle and caring but just as stoic and even as his daughter's face.
"Rumor has spread among the people. According to it, our long lost princess has returned to us."
A long, heavy pause drew out between the three. The King sat forward, steepling his fingers when Svelta gave no sign of emotion. "While I have tried to repress this rumor and prevent its further spread, there are some still on the lookout for you in these halls. Whether or not you wish to be part of this family anymore, you are still our people's princess, and with that role comes some responsibility."
Again he waited. With a dramatic sigh, he sat back again, crossing one leg over the other. "You may no longer stay in the dungeons. Your people know you are here, you need to now represent the status you are associated with. You will stay in your old room. You will dress and look the part. You will attend the Feast tonight, where we will reveal you to all of our people as our long lost princess. DO NOT INTERRUPT ME LEGOLAS."
Fuming, Legolas retreated back to stand by Svelta's side. He had noticed Svelta's balled hands and had approached, trying to get a word in on her behalf.
Inhaling, Thranduil calmed himself and continued. "Your room has been prepared.
Svelta sat in the white high-backed chair at a long white table, awaiting the King's presence. She couldn't bring herself to think of him as her father, the memories and nightmares that had haunted her all day still fresh in her mind. Sometime in the last several hours she had left her cell, been pronounced princess again, been bathed, and had been dressed in a regal gown pulled out form a chest somewhere. She had never seen it before, but it was obviously a dress that was only fit to be worn by someone of very high status. She felt out of place sitting at the high table in her dress, but it was now her duty. She sat alone at the head table, having requested some time alone to think. Eventually the King and her brother would join her at the high table and then all the rest of the elves would file in.
Looking about the room she had only experienced one time before, Svelta couldn't help but compare this feast room to other feast rooms, flashbacks of the Goblin King entering her mind. Would she ever be free of the reoccurring memories? Would she ever not feel the pull of the darkness swimming in her blood? It was stronger now, here in Mirkwood, than it was at any point else on the quest. Having been ignited from seeing Azog atop the hill that fiery night, her pull to the darkness seemed to be growing. A shiver passed through her at the thought and a nearby elf, her escort to keep an eye on her at all times, came forward to ask if she was alright. Nodding and waving them off, Svelta sat a little straighter, trying to look the part she was called to represent.
The dungeons were quiet when Bilbo appeared again. Keys in hand he began unlocking the first of the cells holding the dwarves. Balin was first, greeting him with a smile and a clap on the shoulder. Bilbo went down the line from there, unlocking each door as he got to it. Thorin smiled at him. "Good work Master Baggins" he said gruffly before pushing past to check on the other members of the company. After going through all the doors, Bilbo called out to the group saying there wasn't much time but he had the way out. The company began to following him except for one.
"Wait!" everyone turned to look at Kili. "Where is Svelta?" This caused the rest of the company to look and try and locate the girl in their midst. When they couldn't, Kili spoke up again. "She must still be up with the elves! We cant leave without her. We need to go get her!"
Barely heard above the growing uproar from the rest of the company was Bilbo's squeaky voice. "She won't be coming."
A pause, silence filled the space so recently occupied by noise.
"She's what?" said Kili very slowly. A couple members nearest him backed away a step. But Kili didn't notice, only having eyes for the hobbit before him speaking treachery.
"She created a diversion so that I could get you out of here and gave me instructions to a secret tunnel that is located near the river. We just have to follow the river out of Mirkwood and we will be safe."
"What do ye mean laddie? Created a diversion?" Dwalin piped up from the back.
Bilbo sighed, knowing they were wasting time. "Her fa- ahem her elven father decided that it be best to give the people back their princess at the Feast tonight. A couple elves recognized her on her way in with us and rumor has taken its course. Now that the elves knew, she couldn't be found in the dungeons or there would be an uproar. So she was fixed up this evening and will be represented to her people at the Feast. In return for agreeing, she asked that every single elf be there at that moment for her presentation, so that she may address all of her people. She didn't make an exception for guards or kitchen staff or anyone of elven blood. I was able to obtain the keys and get you out since there was no guard on duty. But please we must be continuing before the guard returns to duty. Now she said we must go this way." And with that, Bilbo turned and attempted to continue on down the stairs.
"Wait." Kili said gruffly, moving forward and grabbing Bilbo's arm, once again halting forward progression. "When, when did you see her to learn all this."
Bilbo blushed slightly, stammering how she had left the door to her room open a bit and when he had found her, waiting to be escorted to the feast, she had proposed the plan, not even giving him a second to say hello and ask how she was or why she wasn't in a cell. She had explained the plan and had only briefly answered questions after, before shooing him away lest he be caught by the escort.
Kili's shoulders fell. While all would agree that she was doing this for the good of the company, he felt deep down that she still felt like she no longer was part of it or was wanted in it and that was why she elected this plan. Before another one could be thought up that would enable to her leave with them. He released Bilbo's sleeve and the hobbit gave him a nod before continuing on, leading the company to the secret passage.
Gandalf's words came back to Thorin again, and he wondered, like Kili, if this was really the right course of action. But he didn't question it. If she had decided it, and it got the rest of his company on the road again, he would respect her wishes. Giving his nephew a little shove to get him going, Thorin followed the hobbit as he led them out into the night.
"My people. I give you, with the greatest joy in my heart, your long lost princess, newly found!" Thranduil's voice barely conveyed emotion. Not like it used to once upon a time ago. But the polite applause of the elves was all that followed before Svelta stood, eye unfocused as the sea of faces, some familiar most not, swam before her.
"Thank you. Thank you all for still supporting me after everything that has happened. Well," Svelta's smirk rose slowly to her lips as she spoke before finally transforming into a sneer. "Not many of you actually like me. Many of you know I am a half breed. You taunted me the first years I was here about my status, my blood status. It didn't matter to any of you that I was the King's daughter because I was a half breed and that qualified you to make fun of me. My blood status gave you supposed right to stand over me and hold it against me. Well after being kidnapped all those years ago by the orcs, I tell you I have returned even more wretched than you saw me before. I have been hurt, I have scars, I lost an eye. And while this man beside me uses a glamour to cover his scars I will wear mine freely shown with pride. Because I have gone through something that not many people go through and live to tell about it. Some of you may still look down on me for this statement. Some of you may claim you have the same experiences as war affects everyone, war leaves scars and wounds deeper than the skin. But you cannot claim you are the same until you experience the torture I went through for years on end. Until you have become a slave and are only barely alive because you still please the one you bought you. And you cannot claim that you are above me or that you have the same experiences as me until you endure experiments performed upon you by Azog the Defiler and until you experience the pain of orc blood running through your veins. They say the orcs are elves that fell when Sauron rose the first time. So are they are cousin? Have I been slandered by receiving blood from one of theirs? Some of you may call me monster. Most of you will still look at me with disgust. But know this. I have endured more in this world than you, even though I have seen less time on this earth than most of you. So while you may call me dirty, know that I have done my fair share to recompense for my supposed crimes. I have done no wrong and I have paid the price for other's wrong doing."
Svelta took a deep breathe. The silence was deafening as all eyes were focused on her. She had asked for all the elves to come. So she could make this next request. Inhaling she spoke, shifting her good eye to try and make contact with as many as she could. "I ask but one request from all of you. That you treat me kindly. That you treat me as you would another elf. Not as a half breed or as one tainted by her past, but as one that is among family here. You don't have to always do it. And I wont be alive forever so that shouldn't be a fear. All I ask is that while in my presence, if you could treat me like a friend. I know it would seem fake at first, but maybe after a few times, we could become friends. I could use some of those in my cursed life." Nodding to herself, Svelta forced a smile to her lips. "Thank you."
The silence ensuing slowly filled with chatter and while none of the elves attending even glanced her way the rest of the night, they at least did not throw snide glares and harsh words either. The festivities began. Soon cheering and dancing and drinking took up the chatter in the hall and the laughter was almost infectious. It was only when a guard approached the table, informing the high King that the prisoners had escaped while no guards were in the dungeons that Svelta finally smiled easily, feeling a weight drop off her shoulders. Her dwarven family had escaped. The plan had worked, and she had set in motion a plan to make the rest of her life trapped in this place of memories just a little bit more bearable.